With all of this talk about content, don't you think it's time to have a frank discussion about grammar? Our Web sites are our online store fronts-our online images. If our sites are full of grammar errors, what does that say about the professionalism of our businesses?

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Using Good Grammar On Web Pages

Make money with Ads by Google

By Robin Nobles

(Part 1)

With all of this talk about content, don't you think it's time to have a frank discussion about grammar? Our Web sites are our online store fronts-our online images. If our sites are full of grammar errors, what does that say about the professionalism of our businesses?

The Internet tends to be a more relaxed atmosphere, so should we expect to see a more relaxed use of grammar on the Net?

No. Just because the Internet is a different publishing medium, and just because we've gotten a little lax in our editing or forgotten some of our grammar rules, that doesn't make it correct.

It's time to pay attention to our own Web pages and relearn some of the basic grammar rules that we may have forgotten along the way.

Let's look at what I consider to be some of the top grammar errors that haunt Web pages:

1. it's = it is

Example: It's perfectly okay to bring your dog to work at Google. (correct)
Example: It's goal is to increase productivity by 100 percent by the year 2007. (incorrect)

In example #2, replace "it's" with "it is." It is goal is to increase productivity ...

Doesn't work, so you know it's wrong. This is one of the most common errors I see, so comb through your Web pages for this one.

2. Web site (or page) vs. web site / page vs. Website / website (page)

"The Chicago Manual of Style" states that Web sites and Web pages are correct. After all, we're referring to the World Wide Web, so Web should always be capitalized. The book uses Web pages (sites) as two words.

"Webster's New Dictionary of the English Language" published in 2006 agrees with Chicago.

However, the online version of Chicago states, "But generally, I would recommend 'Web site' for formal writing, but 'website' for informal writing or friendly writing. Unless, of course, you prefer 'Web site' even when you're being friendly."

Now let's look at it from a different slant. How do people search?

Capitalization doesn't matter, because the major engines aren't case sensitive at this point in time. However, if you're in an industry where your keywords contain "Web site" or "Web page," you may want to use both variations (one and two words) on your pages, because people certainly search in both ways, no matter which is correct.

Think about your target audience and how they're searching. After all, you want a professional Web site, but your ultimate goal is to sell your goods and services.

TIP: The titles of books should be italicized. If the titles are set off by quotation marks here, it's because I have to turn in my articles in text format. Also, all of the examples should technically be italicized as opposed to being in quotes.

3. Periods and commas: do they go inside or outside of quotation marks, or does it depend on the sentence?

Example: She said, "Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, just like this." (correct)
Example: This is "incorrect", because the comma is outside of the quotation marks. (incorrect) It should be: This is "correct," because the comma is ...

4. E-mail vs. email, plus what is the plural of e-mail?

E-mail stands for electronic mail. According to Chicago, e-mail should contain the hyphen, and it doesn't have to be capitalized (E-mail).

Here's where it gets interesting. "The American Heritage Dictionary" considers e-mails to be the plural version of e-mail.

Chicago says that either is correct. After all, the plural version of "mail" is "mail." Here are some examples straight from their Web site:

"How much e-mail do you get each month?"
"Send me some e-mails when you get a chance."

If e-mail is a keyword for you, you may want to include "email" on your pages as well. Again, remember your target audience and the words they will be using when searching for your products and services.

Honestly, if I could make a prediction based on being an Internet person, it would be that e-mail evolves into email due to popular usage. Do you know anyone who uses "e-mails"? I sure don't!

5. SEOs or SEO's

This is one of those rules where I ran into some contradictory information. In "The Wordwatcher's Guide to Good Writing & Grammar" by Morgan S. Freeman, he states:

"How to form the plural of letters and numbers is a stylistic decision. There are no rights and wrongs, merely eye appeal. Some writers would write the plural of O.K. with no apostrophe, and follow suit with the plural of letters (the three Rs) and numbers (the 1930s). Others think the apostrophe makes for clarity (the three R's, the 1930's). Consider 'Hooray for the YMCAs.' Take your pick."

Chicago thinks differently. They believe that capital letters used as words that contain no interior periods can be made plural by simply adding an "s." However, lowercase letters do require an apostrophe and an "s."

However, every source agrees that if interior periods are used, an apostrophe is required, like Ph.D.'s.

My recommendation? Do whatever works for you and be consistent. Personally, my choice is SEOs.

(You can read Part 2 of this article here.)

About the Author:
To discuss the points made in this article, visit the Idea Motivator Blog, a blog devoted to creating Web content and link popularity through creativity (http://www.sew-wrc.com/idea-motivator/).

Robin Nobles conducts live SEO workshops (http://www.searchengineworkshops.com) in locations across North America. Localized SEO training (http://www.searchengineacademy.com) is now being offered through the Search Engine Academy. Sign up for SEO tips of the day at mailto:seo-tip@aweber.com.

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